457 Visa review is not ‘Hansonism’ or ‘Protectionism. #auspol

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In the post Trump word we seems to live in a topsy turvy world where a Prime Minister who owns a multi million Point Piper mansion in Sydney criticises ‘elites’ , and where analysing whether the current way of getting overseas workers through the 457 visa is ‘Trump-lite’ by someone who has exported Australian jobs to New Zealand.

Or even when a government accuses the opposition of populism in the week when they are considering shipping refugees in Malaysia, something they vehemently opposed a few years ago. 

Turnbull has accused Shorten of hypocrisy as the highest number of 457 visas were granted when he was the employment minister. although Labor retorted the numbers were high under Mr Shorten because he inherited a system with few restrictions as a consequence of policies of the former the Howard government.

But going beyond the inevitable partisan toing and froing, the question remains that there is some level of misgivings about this program.  While the media and politicians may have resurrected this issue after Trump, this issue has been bubbling along.  The Australian Union movement has raised it for some time.  ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver talked about this in 2013.

If we characterise this issue as a capital  – labour one, it is important to ensure that capital does not take hold of the arguments like Michael Stutchbury has done on Insiders this morning.

Joanna Howe, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Adelaide wrote in The Conversation that there are a group of employers that are taking advantage of the situation, disadvantaging local workers and exploiting the foreign 457 visa workers.

But when we drill down into how the 457 visa works in practice, Labor does have a point when it claims that local workers are missing out on job opportunities. At present there is no proper mechanism for ensuring there is a skill shortage for the jobs in which employers are using 457 visas. This means employers can use 457 visas in areas where Australians are ready and able to be employed….

This means the 457 visa can be used by employers who wish to access foreign labour for an ulterior motive. While most decent employers will not do this, research shows there is a core group of employers that prefer temporary migrant workers because they are more compliant, work harder and are less likely to complain or be unionised.

Pro-business voices in the media such as Stutchbury, and basically everyone in News Ltd. will be ready to portray attempts to reform 457 visas as ‘protectionism’ ‘Trump-like’ and ‘xenophobic’.  It is a bit where the xenophobia in punishing refugees in Manus Island and Nauru is hidden behind ‘preventing the drownings’.

We should disregard Pauline Hanson saying that Labor is taking its cues from her party.  Hanson will maximise her media exposure, she’s very good at that.

The ALP has to frame the narrative not on ‘we don’t want foreigners taking Australian jobs’ , but in the sense that some businesses are rorting the system to put both Australian and foreign workers at a disadvantage to maximise profits.  This seems the approach of the ACTU and the ALP should follow this lead.

As Joanna Howe states:

……the conversation needs to be respectful and responsible – it should be about protecting Australian access to job opportunities and protecting foreign workers from rampant exploitation. This is a problem of the government’s own making and the fault lies squarely at its door for the shambolic way it manages temporary labour migration.


1 Comment

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One response to “457 Visa review is not ‘Hansonism’ or ‘Protectionism. #auspol

  1. Alan

    Every few weeks is a news article about 457 visa rorts, skilled migration visa fraud, etc. Successive governments have ignored the mounting problems for years, the 457 visa program needs to be reviewed.

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